Analogue Music | Odonis Odonis

Odonis Odonis

By Matt Conner

I'm just going to go ahead and assume a thing or two about the new EP from Odonis Odonis.

After talking with Constantin Tzenos about the band's tension and trajectory, it makes sense to assume that Reaction, the band's brand new EP, is titled in response to it all—the pressures they've rejected, the lessons they've learned, the music they've made and released (or, in many cases, never released).

These days, Odonis Odonis are making music on their own terms—and they're all the happier for it. They've shifted their sound to an inventive industrial approach, away from their earlier post-punk fusion—a time Tzenos describes as joyless due to the internal and external pressures placed upon the music itself. They release when they want. And if they want to record an album in a month just to see if they can, they'll do that, too.

Reaction is likely just that, a tangible reaction to the freedom they feel to be who they want. Two of the songs are even recorded straight from practice jams. If it clicks, it clicks. There are no other rules.

Here's our conversation with Constantin Tzenos about the band's journey to find freedom and how much better things are on the other side.

Analogue: I'm listening to the new EP and thinking about how difficult the decision-making on this would be for me. The experimentation, the samples, the layers—I would never stop wanting to edit or add. What's that like for you guys at this point? How easy is the editing process or even showing restraint?

Constantin Tzenos: That used to be a bigger problem for us. We used to be maximalists. For this EP, it was a lot simpler. By the time we got to this, it was pretty effortless. The EP wasn't overthought at all. I had to figure out a way to set up everything in our practice space, and we would just record the practices. Some of the songs came out as first takes, like "Promise" and "Insect." Those are pretty much the first takes of the songs.

It doesn't matter how long something takes. If it clicks and it happens, it's meant to be.

It sounds super easy, to say it just happens, but it really did happen like that. I think it's partially because we've been playing together as a band for so long now that we're able to just get into a room and jam and create something pretty effortlessly. I find that the more you analyze or overthink, especially with us—because when we were going through the process of switching our sound, we were so meticulous and anal about every sound. It took us almost a year to do the whole record. After that, I was like, 'I don't want to do this approach anymore.'

So we started trusting our instincts and it's been working out for us. It keeps the songs fresh. I'm not sick of playing them. Because they're performed live, they have an energy to them when you're playing them. It's been a beneficial process.

Analogue: So that process was pretty devoid of joy at one point, then?

Constantin: Hell, it sucked. I hated it. [Laughs] It's weird because that's where I'd come from. That's always been my approach to music, to overanalyze every little thing that's going in and there's 30 or 40 layers going on. There's tons of guitars and 20 vocal tracks. Just crazy stuff. We started to switch up our sound and we wanted to up the production. We did, and we learned a lot. We mix and master our own stuff, so that was a learning process to get better at. But after we went through Post Plague, we were just completely wiped out. We were like, 'We can't do this again.' It wasn't fun. It wasn't a fun process. So that's what led us to minimize stuff.

Even, too, we were listening to modern music and a lot of it has taken a minimal approach. When you take a minimal approach, it doesn't necessarily make it easier to find stuff out. Learning to have restraint is its own battle, but it was a fun challenge.

Analogue: So was there a meeting somewhere that you have to approach the band and say, "Look, this isn't fun for me anymore"?

Constantin: Oh, yeah. We'd been in the room together just mixing this thing going back and forth on tracks going over and over and over again. It was a constant conversation. A month after we finished Post Plague, we actually recorded a whole other record. We never put it out, but we used it as an experiment to see how fast we could do an album. We wrote the songs in a couple weeks and then went to the studio for three or four days and then recorded and mastered it. We managed to do that whole process in a month and we realized, 'Woah, we can do this! That worked out great and it was so fun.'

So we applied that same approach to No Pop. We didn't really have the songs fleshed out as much. We jammed them out with instruments we didn't know how to play. Then we went into a studio for a week and then mixed and mastered it. It wasn't overthought out. It was a quick process. That's just been our approach now.

Reaction cover
Reaction cover

Analogue: By the way, when you say you're using instruments you don't know how to play, how real is that? [Laughs]

Constantin: Our buddy Ian Gomes, who owns Union Sound, loaned us a bunch of vintage synth gear and said, 'Go to town.' I would say the first two months was all garbage because we couldn't really gel everything together. We weren't sure how to get good sound, but within the last month or maybe three weeks, we did the bulk of the record. It all started coming out. It was like, 'Oh, here it is. This is the good stuff.' When they were still at a vital moment, we tried to capture them. I think a lot of other bands can relate, but sometimes you want to catch that song while it's still vital, because sometimes you can play it for years and it loses its urgency. You can forget why the song is good. We didn't want to get to that point.

Analogue: You said you had a whole different album and you actually liked it. So why scrap it?

Constantin: I don't know. We still have it. It's way different. It came after Post Plague and we weren't sure whether Post Plague was going to be an Odonis record or a new project. This other record was more like our other stuff, more post-punk with the guitars, drums, bass. It was a straightforward post-punk record, and we had to make a decision whether we were going to go back from the path we were already on or switch lanes. Once we switched lanes it didn't make sense to put out this other record.

There are a bunch of records that we have sitting on the shelf. Maybe one day they will come out. Who knows? At this point, it doesn't seem like there's any point to it.

Analogue: How did you know to record the practice jam sessions? Did you know they would result in what they did and you set it up accordingly or did you stumble into it somehow?

Constantin: I think it was more that. We were just trying to take the pressure off of ourselves. In years previous, we were putting pressure on ourselves in a lot of different ways—not just in recording, but it was also learning to be a band and the ropes of the music industry. We didn't want to put any more pressure on ourselves. There are tons and tons of hours of jamming that didn't all work, but when it did, like "Insect" was written in the duration of the song. It was three minutes and then it's like, 'Oh, that's a song.' I'm sure you've read other bands who have experienced that throughout history. It just happens. It doesn't matter how long something takes. If it clicks and it happens, it's meant to be.

Analogue: Take me into that moment. You brought up "Insect," so when that jam session is done, do you all just look at each other?

Constantin: Well, we knew we had something. [Laughs] It was hilarious to us at the same time because it was so simple and effortless. We thought we'd then try it live to see how it goes. That was also a part of the process for this EP to test the songs out live on the No Pop tour to see which ones clicked. That song really slayed every night, so we realized it worked. We're not going to fight it. Let's just put it out. The public kind of spoke on that one.

Analogue: Earlier you were describing the pressures you all felt and there was no joy in the process. Were there discussions of setting this whole thing aside?

Constantin: For sure. Our band has been around for a bit now—like seven or eight years now. We've definitely taken our lumps to this point. There have definitely been moments wondering why we're doing this, especially when you're trying to make it. That was a big part of what was toxic about some of the stuff we'd been previously involved with. We had managers and labels early on and there's pressure on you to sell records and be successful—however you define success in music. It was tough to live up to that. We all put our lives on the line trying to make that happen, and we all ended up broke and screwed and fucked over by multiple people in the music industry and disillusioned by all of it.

It led us back to being, 'Well, I just like making music. Let's just focus on that and let the rest fall where it may.' As soon as we went back to that, things started happening for us again. We had to rebuild our audience, but it's been better than ever. Honestly it's been awesome. I have no complaints. I would never want to go back to that way of thinking about music.

Analogue: So you're happier now than ever?

Constantin: Yeah, we're having a blast. Whether it's a sold-out show or 20 people show up, we're going to put on the same show. We're having a good time.

VISIT: Odonis Odonis